Model United Nations

June 30, 2020 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
August 5, 2019 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby
June 25, 2018 Lucy J Parry, Participedia Team
February 9, 2017 Chang Hamilton Situ
February 26, 2012 Chang Hamilton Situ

Model UN is an educational simulation of the United Nations which aims to enable students to become more engaged in and knowledgeable of international political issues and the UN while developing their communication, deliberation, leadership, and debate skills.

Problems and Purpose

Model UN is a simulation of the United Nations that aims to reach students from all walks of life by educating them about international political issues within the United Nations[1]. The Model UN encourages students to act as leaders and ambassadors of a UN member state, gaining knowledge of a current issue set on the UN agenda. The students represent either a nation, or an NGO in a simulated session of a UN committee, such as the Security Council or the General Assembly. The student participants are given the responsibilities of a delegate and diplomats where they are obligated to create speeches, outline paper drafts, debate, deliberate, consult with one another, and further negotiate with their member states to resolve and develop solutions to the political issues on the agenda.

Through the Global Model United Nations conference, students are encouraged to participate from every region of the world, to act as diplomats and participate in simulated sessions of the United Nations General Assembly and other multilateral bodies in the UN system. The GMUN delivers principles embedded within their organization which differ from the Model UN. For example, they offer rules of procedure which provide a closer look at how the United Nations actually functions. It offers unlimited access to UN official and diplomats before and during the conference. It also encourages diversity by giving students from different countries an opportunity to participate in the simulation exercises[5].

The National Model United Nations is a non-profit organization that aims at educating the student public of the United Nations on its international political issues. This organization’s main purpose is to actively engage students and to mold them to be more effective global citizens. They aim to build strong leaders that are able to collaborate and deliberate about contemporary issues that plague the world. They strive to develop “a world comprised of civically engaged people who aim to create peaceful, multi-lateral conflict resolution and equitable, sustainable human development”[6].

The United Nations Association of the United States is also a non-profit organization that aims to promote and encourage the principles set within the United Nations Charter and the work performed within the United Nations among their national civil society[7].

The essential purpose of the Model UN is to provide an interactive educational experience that teaches students essentially about the United Nations. The simulations offer a detailed experience and understanding of how the process of international debate, negotiation, and diplomacy operates. Model UN's simulation of the diplomatic process is relevant in a world that is becoming more interdependent. Therefore, Model UN makes for informed global citizens who not only understand the decisions their nations makes but also how those changes affect politics nationally, regionally, and globally.

The Model UN aims to solve conflicts and issues set originally on the United Nations agenda. The students, or “delegates," prepare to draft resolutions, plot strategy, negotiate with supporters and adversaries, and resolve conflicts which affect almost every country in the world, all in the interest of mobilizing international cooperation. Model UN ambassadors learn how the international community acts on its concerns about peace and security, human rights, the environment, food and hunger, economic development, globalization, and other issues that plague societies today.

A related method is We the People.

Origins and Development

In the early 1920’s, students from the United States participated in collegiate simulations of the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations.[2] For example, National Model United Nations and the Harvard Model United Nation started simulations of the League of Nation during the 1920’s.[3] The Model UN began as the Model League of Nations Assembly, in the early 1930’s. In 1945, the League of Nations was dismantled and the United Nations was created. In 1947, the League of Nations and the Model League of Nations Assembly made a decision to combine their efforts to transition to a new organization that would later be named the Model United Nations[4]. The Model UN has traditionally always been a collegiate driven organization, but in 1968, it was expanded for high school students. The high school level of MUN was established to enhance high school students' participation when it comes to negotiation and oratory skills, and to also broaden their understanding and knowledge of the world.

The Model of UN simulation was designed to be the exact same as the United Nations. The simulations are divided among the different organs of the United Nations, such as the General Assembly, which is the main deliberative assembly; the Security Council for deciding the certain resolutions for peace and security; the Economic and Social Council for encouraging and promoting international and social cooperation and advance development; the Secretariat for providing information needed by the UN; and the International Court of Justice, which is the main judicial organ of the United Nations. Through these five bodies, student delegates hold mock conferences and regular meetings. During the simulation exercises, students are expected to employ a variety of skills, including in oral and written communication, critical thinking, leadership, and teamwork, which they can apply to their future lives.

Recently simulation of other deliberative bodies, such as the Global Model United Nations, National Model United Nations, United Nations Youth Association, and Regional Conference has been added in the Model UN.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

As the program is not owned by a particular organization, students and non-profit organizations drive the organization. Model UN exercises are generally open to all students who show interest in participating. The Model UN is a learning process; it does not require participants to demonstrate extensive experience in international relations prior to the conference. A Model UN simulation can be practiced on various levels: in classrooms, school clubs, state-wide, national and international conferences. [7] The selection process and prerequisites may vary depending on the level, formality, and size of the Model UN exercise. A club simulation of the Model UN may select their participants through recruitment, while a conference initiated by a non-profit organization may select through applications.

There are various roles in a Model UN simulation such as delegates, Secretary-Generals, committee staffs, committee chairs and press corp. [8] Participants can decide what role to take on or may apply to perform specific roles. Prior to the simulation, participants would complete the necessary preparation work for their role and country of representation.

Some high schools and universities offer Model UN as a semester-long course. In these cases, students who wish to participate in the exercise can register and enroll at their home institution. For example, Chapman University in California offers an MUN course that focuses on learning about the United Nations, international diplomacy, and current international issues.[9]

In addition, Model UN conferences can incorporate competitions into the simulation exercise, both on the high school and collegiate level. Awards are given for specific aspects of the deliberations, such as “best delegation” and “best large delegation” presented at the Harvard National Model United Nations conference. [10] To participate in larger scale conferences and international conferences (e.g. Asia-Pacific Model United Nations Conference), [11] delegation teams from institutions are required to register with the hosting institution or organization.

The UNA-USA is one international Model UN organization; its Global Classroom International Model UN program demonstrates a rigorous participant selection process. [12] It requires applicants to familiarize with the requirement of the position by providing an overview of the qualifications. The application asks for leadership experiences with the Model UN and a list of short answer questions. After applications are received by the organization, students would be scheduled for an interview to determine acceptance.

How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making

Deliberation in a Model UN simulation takes place in various committees within the organization. The general committees most often include the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council & Regional Bodies, and the Specialized Agencies. The discussion topics for each committee are chosen by the host institution, which generally includes issues that are currently being discussed in the United Nations.[13] A member state is usually represented by one delegate in each council, though exceptions can be granted by the host. Prior to the simulation, delegates are expected to have conducted thorough research on their respective countries and write a position paper regarding their stance on the topic.

A basic flow of the deliberation process in a Model UN simulation could be:

  1. Agenda Setting
  2. Debate & Caucus
  3. Working Papers
  4. Debate & Caucus
  5. Draft Resolutions
  6. Amendments
  7. Vote on Draft
  8. Final Resolutions[14]

The Model UN simulation utilizes Rules of Procedure to facilitate and regulate deliberation. It may include general rules such as the usage of official language, authority of each role, and conduct. Rules of Procedure also contain the rules governing debate, including the debate agenda, the caucus, and the appeal proceedings. During the deliberative sessions, committee chairs act as moderators. In some simulations, the chair would prepare a speakers’ list to ensure equal speaking opportunity. In others, delegates would simply raise their placards to acquire a speaking time. However, delegates are almost always responsible to only speak at the chair’s discretion.

Caucusing in the Model UN simulation is conducted both formally and informally. To open a debate, each delegate takes a turn to address their position on the chosen issue. The delegates split into those who support and those who oppose a specific position and are allocated equal speaking time. In between the sessions, informal small group discussion presents an opportunity for delegates to assemble and work out differences and resolutions.[15]

Throughout the sessions, delegates keep a working paper that includes proposals regarding the topic at hand. These working papers can be shared between delegates with the Chair’s approval. This process aids the committee in keeping clear records of new ideas and proposals. Proposals eventually accumulate into more concrete statements and are rewritten into comprehensive resolutions. A number of draft resolutions then go through committees for voting. Each member state has one vote, either voting “yes”, “no”, or “abstention”; although in the Security Council, simulating the UN, one “no” from any permanent member would veto the draft resolution. A draft resolution must be passed through majority voting before it becomes the final resolution.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Since Model United Nations is an academic stimulation to educate students, both the outcome and effect focus on the way young people have grown and developed in terms of participation.

Public officials in national and international governments/organizations have called for voices from young people in a Global Model United Nations conference. Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of Republic of Korea and Kiyo Akasaka, former United Nations Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information stated they would like to hear young voices in particular [16] because young people are the leaders of the future world. With the encouragement of public figures, more students are urged to participate in Model UN conferences.

Through the conferences, students learn to appreciate and respect the views of different countries with diverse cultural backgrounds, have a better understanding of UN structures, and acknowledge the importance of cooperation from every country to deal with global affairs [17]. Student participants have even attempted to sway decision-making. For example, young participants in Nigeria Model UN [26] conferences became young diplomats who attempted to influence the world diplomacy, and they wrote articles, reports, and newsletters aimed at increasing awareness and ensuring their voices are heard through different media outlets globally. [18]

The Model United Nations conferences mainly concentrate on debating international politics and law, which continue to impact delegates’ real lives. Some participants become increasingly interested in law and policies after gaining essential leadership and problem-solving skills during these conferences. The experience inspires students “toward deeper study of international relations and law and preparation for a career that promotes international understanding and common growth" [19]. Many public figures such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, former World Court Justice Stephen M. Schwebel, United Nations Secretary-General, and actor Samuel Jackson are former Model UN participants [20].

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Though the Model United Nations was intended to educate students about world affairs and get them engaged in the deliberative process, funding problems, fee abuse, and criticism began to rise. Model UN receives financial support from international and national governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and private organizations; however, they have faced fundraising deficiencies and budget cuts due to the economic downturn in recent years. Some concerns have resulted that financial problems will lead to less deliberation. For example, according to Model UN Headquarter of Cyberschoolbus, every delegate is required to pay a fee ranging from $15 to $165 to participate in Model UN conferences that are held in hotels and colleges; however, the fee does not include rooms, food, and transportation. [20] Many delegates seek funding from school, scholarship, and local organizations; however, these funds are limited, so potential delegates end up excluded from participation. Miami Dade College’s North Campus has participated at the National Model United Nations conferences in New York City since 1992 and there were 24 delegates attending in 2010.[21] Unfortunately, there were only 11 delegates, half of 2010, going to the conference in 2011 because the College Provost cut Model UN funding based on school budget cuts [21]. Those delegates attempted to raise funds by selling pizzas and sent letters to request sponsorship from different companies [21].

Besides encountering funding problems, the Model United Nations faces some criticism. Critics asked whether it was efficient, reasonable, and necessary for student groups to spend so much money on Model UN conferences; however, only one prominent news article reported fee abuse. The Model UN’s student groups at the University of Wisconsin-Madison requested 133 percent more than the Pre-Law Society’s student groups for the same event, and as a result, Model UN received $1000 and Pre-Law Society only got $300. [22] It was unreasonable that Model UN got three times more funds than Pre-Law Society while they did not have three times more members than Pre-Law Society. This “special treatment” resulted in that critics suspected the Model UN’s student group at the UW-Madison as a segregated fee abuser. [22]

Other critics mainly focus on how Model United Nations conferences will actually impact the deliberation process in reality after spending a large amount of money. “As none of the delegates truly represent the countries they are fighting for in the Model United Nations conferences, it is always possible to be reasonable, deliberate, and forward-looking." [23] Hence, it is easier for delegates to come up with better solutions and reach compromise than real political actors in the world. [23] But because Model UN is not 'real,' it is less likely that its decisions will affect the real deliberation process. [23]

While delegates are struggling with fundings, some Model United Nations conferences offer best/outstanding delegate awards in order to encourage more competition and repay students' hard work. [24] Nonetheless, participation is more important than competition. Some people worry about that awards will be "the sole purpose of attending a Model UN conferences" [25] for students.

See Also

United Nations

We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution

Civic Education


[1] United Nations Association of the United States of America. What is Model United Nations? [DEAD LINK]

Update: similar information can be found at UNA-USA. Model UN.

[2] United Nations Association of the United States of America

[3] Model United Nations of the Far West. Brief History. MUNFW.

[4] Indianapolis Model United Nations. About Us. IUPUI.

[5] Ripley, Brian, Neal Carter, and Andrea K. Grove. "League of Our Own: Creating a Model United Nations Scrimmage Conference." Journal of Political Science Education. 5.1 (2009): 55-70.

[6] Global Model United Nations [BROKEN LINK]

Update: similar information can be found here.

[7] Participants, Model UN Frequently Asked Questions. United Nations Association of the United States of America. [DEAD LINK]

[8] Roles of Participants. Asia-Pacific International Model United Nations.

Update: information on the Asia-Pacific International MUN Conference can be found here.

[9] Chapman University. The Model United Nations Program.

[10] Handa, R. R and Soma, A. (2012, Sept 22). Recap of Harvard Model United Nations India 2012. Best Delegate.

[11] Asia-Pacific Model United Nations. Conference. [DEAD LINK]

[12] United Nations Association of the United States of America. Global Classrooms Model UN Senior Secretariat Application. [DEAD LINK]

Update: similar information can be found at

[13] Harvard Model United Nations. Committees.

[14] World Model United Nations. What is World Model UN? [BROKEN LINK]

[15] Endless, Brian and Gazarian, Jean. Some Differences Between the United Nations and Model UN Conference. American Model United Nations International.

[16] Press Release 1997: Global Model United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Held in Republic of Korea, Closes with Adoption of Eight Resolutions. Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York.

[17] Participants in the 47th Annual AMUN Conference on November 16-17, 2012! Arkansas Model United Nations (AMUN), University of Central Arkansas.

[18] Nigeria Model United Nations.

[19] Model UN: Building a Legacy for the Future of International Relations. September 2011. The Stanley Foundation.

[20] Frequently Asked Questions. Model UN Headquarter. United Nations Cyberschoolbus. [DEAD LINK]

[21] Silva, Rebeka. Funding Cut, Model UN Fundraises. The Falcon Times—The Student News Paper of Miami Dade College North Campus Since 1961. Vol 48 (1) Miami Dade College—North Campus.

[22] Badger Herald Editorial Board. Model UN a Model Seg Fee Abuser. The Badger Herald.

[23] Martin, Eli. Harvard Model UN: Self-congratulations or a Glimpse at How the World Could be Run? Harvard Political Review.

[24] KFC. (2011, Dec 11). High School Model UN Rankings 2011-2012: Purpose, Philosophy, and Methology. Best Delegate.

[25] Substantive Information Model UN Conference Planner's Guide. United Nations Association of the United States of America. [DEAD LINK]

External Links

The Uses and Limits of Model United Nations in an International Relations Classroom